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Programming Tips

A Message to Middle-aged, Obsolete and Unemployable Programmer

Unemploed-Programmer

What Made Me to Write this Post?

I first read the above comment when it appeared in the comment section of a popular blog for programmers. If you do a little Google search, similar contexts has appeared at many places on various blogs and forums throughout the web. Coincidentally, the screen shot here shows the example from the United States but it could be true for anyone anywhere on the globe.

Although there are various definitions as to which age brackets should be considered middle-aged, here I assume 35 to 45 years as the middle age for software programmers.The aim of this post is to instill a sense of confidence in the middle-aged software professionals who are going through this difficult phase in career.

Disclosure: I’m a middle aged happily employed programmer.

Why do the Middle-aged Programmers are at the Mercy of Time and Age?

You except it or not but it’s a bitter truth that unlike other high profile professionals like Physicians, Architects and Lawyers, in most cases Software Programmer’s value and demand decreases with age and experience. Once upon a time, programmers coding in Cobol, Fortran, Pascal, Mumps etc. were valuable but their demand has drastically reduced as many other new languages and skill sets are powering significantly higher number of applications than these almost extinct languages. Are you lost in the skill jungle?

Skill-Set-Jungle

The skill set related changes are so quick and sweeping that every couple of years you’ll encounter a few new skill set that needs to be learnt to be indispensable in the job market. Be it a new framework, new library of an existing language/script, API integration, a new UI tool or a completely new development trend. Sometimes the new release (i.e. a new version) of an existing development environment is so drastically different from its previous version that it can give a mild heart attack to even seasoned programmers. From my personal experience, I find latest releases of Microsoft’s .Net development environment to be annoyingly different from the existing ones but that’s how a software platform is refined and evolved.There’s no simple work around.

Does Experience Matters in Software Industry?

Let us compare it with other industries. What could happen when a novice architect designs a building that is fundamentally flawed? What could happen when a less experienced surgeon commits a mistake while performing a surgery? What could happen when a pilot with little experience fly a passenger aircraft? In all the above cases there are chances that many lives could be lost apart from the collateral damages.

Now consider this. A majority of the software projects are non critical in nature and what could happen if a piece of code goes wrong? It’ll lead to a bug and most of the time it would be caught at some stage of the quality testing and fixed. There’s no life at stake and the nature of damage is virtual.

In software development, experience does matter but is not considered as valuable as it is in other industries. Programming is all about code-bug-fix and learn, a continuous cycle. Does that mean software programming is a dead end career? Not at all.

Young Programmers, are they More Adaptive & Productive than there Older Counterparts?

This is indeed a popular perception, not necessarily true. But undoubtedly the younger lot can adapt to the new skills more quickly and if required can devote more time to the learning/project as they’ve a fewer family commitments. Moreover , as per the laws of evolution every y-gen is more evolved than their x-gen. But experience with a right mix of effort and desire to learn has the ability to trump any evolution.

How to increase your Shelf Life?

Software is all about keeping yourself current in terms of skill sets. If you’ve coded earlier, you already have those fundamentals and you only need to build a relevant skill set around it. Apart from this you need to follow the changing trends – like 5 years back who could have imagined that a scripting language like JavaScript can evolve to such an extent that it would become the lingua-franca of the web! Yes, JavaScript was used only for the client side validation and no serious programmer would take it seriously. Now it is the most popular language with a presence in almost every software project on web or mobile development.  Also, with Node.js, JavaScript is the only language that can be used end-to-end (client+server side) to code an entire project!

Devote time, put some genuine effort to rediscover and re-skill yourself and assert yourself before you’re thrown out to make way for the new kid on the block. Happy programming and please share your experience.

 

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    Basant Singh

    Basant is a talented software developer who is very engaged in web & cloud platforms on a daily basis. He is a contributor to codingthis.com reporting on various news and troubleshooting on various platforms. Basant is very strong in SQL and a great asset to the CodingThis community.

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